30 October 2021

Visual Arts graduate Wayne Lewis

Wayne Lewis

Bachelor of Visual Arts

One summer afternoon in early 1995, Wayne Lewis and three friends sat around on worn leather couches in Kensington’s Rising Sun Hotel nursing their drinks. Little did they know this meeting would change the trajectory of the South Australian film industry, and visual effects in cinema as a whole.

That day, celebrated visual effects studio Rising Sun Pictures (RSP) was born. Twenty six years later, the studio is still delighting and inspiring audiences worldwide creating some of Hollywood’s most memorable onscreen moments

The films RSP has contributed to reads like a list of the most popular films of the past 20 years. In the last two years alone the Adelaide-based team has had a hand in delivering Jungle Cruise, The Boys, Black Widow, Mortal Combat, The Eight Hundred, Ford V Ferrari, Spiderman: Far from Home, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

Growing up in the regional South Australian town of Whyalla, surrounded by closing shipyards, saltbush and the red dust of the steel works, it was seeing Star Wars in the local cinema that sparked a sense of possibility in Wayne when it hit screens in 1977.

Cut to 1995. Wayne was two years out of his Bachelor of Visual Arts at UniSA, and the ground breaking effects used in Jurassic Park had ushered in a new way of making cinema and telling stories.

He and RSP Co-Founders Gail Fuller, Tony Clark and Steve Roberts rode this wave of new computer-generated image (CGI) technology, combined their entrepreneurial minds, and set up a studio down the road from their namesake.

The early nineties were really the beginning of the common application of visual effects,” Wayne says.

That coincided with the beginning of the internet, so we also took advantage of the new technology coming up around that point.”

As is the nature of small businesses, Wayne’s held every role from 3D Artist, Animator, Compositor, Director to Studio Manager, Head of Production, Creative Director and Managing Director – even opening RSP’s Sydney offices – as the company rapidly grew, moving from creative roles into more managerial ones.

Wayne also spearheaded the establishment of Rising Sun Education in 2014 which still partners with UniSA to deliver undergraduate and postgraduate education to our students.

What attracted Wayne to a Bachelor of Visual Arts at UniSA was the same thing that made him such a valuable asset and leader at RSP.

A self-proclaimed “weird kid”, Wayne found a home in the course where he was surrounded by similar misfits and relished in the degree’s focus on conceptual and lateral thinking.

UniSA Video
2021 Alumni Award Recipient Wayne Lewis

While he enjoyed overseeing creative film projects – sequences like bringing Harry Potter’s Goblet of Fire to life, transforming Hugh Jackman into Wolverine with six full body scans over his X-Men career, destroying Game of Thrones’ Great Sept of Baelor with wildfire, crashing Oscar-winning Gravity’s space station into the ocean – he soon became far more invested in how the company could do things differently.

Wayne’s knack for conceptual thinking and his ability to push boundaries served him well in expanding RSP.

Inspired by Brazillian entrepreneur Ricardo Semler, he aimed to build a democratic and inclusive workplace that flattened hierarchies, devolved decision making, and empowered, engaged, and above all, respected its people.

Of all the accomplishments over the last 26 years, Wayne cites employing more than 700 people, drawing many from 70 countries to work and study in Adelaide, as one of the most satisfying.

“When I look at some of Rising Sun’s achievements, working on big films is definitely a major one, but what is more interesting is that by staying in Adelaide we created opportunities for a large number of locals and internationals to work here on globally significant projects.”

“A lot of the satisfaction has come from creating something out of nothing, helping to build careers, and hopefully inspiring others to do the same.”

Earlier this year, RSP joined the globally established FuseFX group with a combined 800 artists in eight locations across the world.

Wayne and partner Gail have taken the opportunity to move on to new prospects such as We Made a Thing Studios, founded in 2019 with Jeremy Kelly-Bakker and Tom Phillips, which specialises in creative development for multi-platform storytelling.

Here Wayne continues to partner with UniSA as a bridge between education and the industry he knows so well, helping young, ambitious upstarts – not dissimilar to himself 26 years ago – learn alongside industry professionals as part of their curriculum, providing invaluable, world-class opportunities.

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